By Emily Lohec | Staff Writer
Baylor’s chapter of It’s On Us, a domestic violence awareness organization, is displaying “Christmas in October” to commemorate National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and teach students the signs of unhealthy relationships.
The exhibit features Christmas trees and a banner reading, “What’s more out of place than Christmas in October? Violence in a healthy relationship.” There are handmade ornaments as well, each showing one of the 10 signs of unhealthy relationships and resources available at Baylor and in the Waco community. “Christmas in October” is located at the Vara Martin Daniel Plaza, and has been on display since Wednesday.
Hoffman Estates, Ill., Sophomore Zachary Tufenkjian, president of It’s On Us BU, said he sees this organization as a way to promote awareness for abusive relationships, which can be more prevalent than people realize.
“The reality is that most college students do not know the signs of an unhealthy relationship and fail to recognize interpersonal violence,” Tufenkijan said.
Tufenkijan said he found that since joining It’s On Us BU, he has learned more about sexual and domestic violence and how to initiate change for those in harmful relationships.
“I have become more informed of the different factors and processes at play when dealing with the issue of sexual violence at Baylor and in the United States as a whole, and the prevalence of sexual and domestic violence on college campuses and the importance of providing a voice to survivors,” Tufenkijan said.
Kemah senior Sidney McGinty said she has felt love and support from her involvement with It’s On Us BU.
“Feeling powerless against my own experiences with sexual assault first attracted me to It’s On Us events,” McGinty said. “They knew how to comfort me and understood how best to communicate about sexual assault.”
McGinty is not only a member of the organization, but also works to put on events, displays and activities. McGinty said that the design element of the exhibit has provided an outlet for awareness towards domestic violence and sexual assault in a creative and memorable way.
“Our [design] meetings are designed so that every voice is heard,” McGinty said. “We end up working together to mold them all into a cohesive plan aimed at educating Baylor’s campus about sexual assault.”
McGinty said that “Christmas in October” is meant to grasp the attention of students, faculty and staff by decorating for a holiday months in advance.
“The Christmas trees are meant to be eye-catching because they are out of place by being set up in October as a comparison to violence being any part of a healthy relationship,” McGinty said.
McGinty said she has seen appreciation expressed for opportunities like this to support those who have experienced unhealthy relationships.
“Hands on activities such as writing notes of encouragement is always popular with students,” McGinty said. “I believe that explaining what sexual assault is while providing a space where survivors can experience support has the power to radically transform Baylor University.”
Both Tufenkijan and McGinty said they value the knowledge and resources students can gain while observing the on-campus exhibit.
“We believe that providing a visual representation of domestic violence’s oddity and lack of place at Baylor will better help Baylor students understand why it is such a huge issue,” Tufenkijan said.
Students are encouraged to walk by the display and to stop and engage in conversation with those around to learn more about domestic violence.
“[Today] we will be doing a special event in partnership with Bumble where students can actually sign ornaments and put them up on a yellow tree,” Tufenkijan said. “Bumble will be donating $1 for every ornament signed for our philanthropy.”
McGinty said that It’s On Us BU is determined to spread awareness and offer a safe place for those who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault.
“My hope is that It’s On Us will be a catalyst for campus safety and community,” McGinty said. “My greatest desire for this organization is that we would consistently love people in the ways that they want and need to be loved, not in the ways that are easy or convenient.”